Off with his head, chanted the peanut gallery after reading this article, while flinging once free airplane peanuts at the corpse. Airline passengers are very protective of their in flight freebies, and so it should come as no surprise that almost all passengers truly loathe the idea of “buy on board”. Before the jury votes to send this writer to the gallows, I’ll ask one final question: are you more protective of your lousy airline meal, or your hard earned cash? You can’t have both…

Almost All Travelers Buy On Price…

Airline tickets were once, even recently-prohibitively expensive. That’s no longer the case. Low cost carriers (who never offered free meals) and international competition have driven prices down to places where we can happily travel again. Since prices are lower, margins are narrow, so it’s idealistic to think that one airline will knowingly take a large hit on cost per passenger when no one else is. No airline in history has successfully “won” the economy travel market by offering a better product at a higher price. It’s actually killed quite a few giants. I for one would rather have low prices than overcooked “chickens”…

Brands Should Offer Promotional Items And Water Should Be Free…

One thing that’s not cool with buy on board is endangering public health. Bottled water should be free. It’s vitally important for safety and the reduction of jet lag on longer flights. While on the subject-free, providing hungry, captive passengers with promotional goods seems like a brilliant idea to any marketer out there. Who wouldn’t be over the moon excited when their starving eyes hear that Lindt are sponsoring free chocolate bars for everyone on board? I mean come on, that’s good stuff!

Buy On Board Creates Loyalty Opportunity…

Frequent flyers enjoy feeling special, and rightfully so. In the days of “chicken or fish” there weren’t many ways for an airline to express gratitude towards loyalty in the economy cabin. Now, with the rest of the cabin paying for their meals, airlines have an opportunity to single out their frequent flyers, offering complimentary meals, beverages, snacks or whatever, to thank them for choosing their cheap ticket over the competition’s cheap ticket. This could create unique branding partnerships for food vendors looking to gain influence amongst an elite group of travelers as well. Delta and American already do this in some form…

Airlines Aren’t “Working It” Properly… Yet.

Airlines need to use smart data analysis, on a route by route basis to create a system where there is enough of the food we actually want. Is it unfair to think that I should be offered a delicious Butter Chicken from London’s own Masala Zone when I fly British Airways out of London? I think not! If you’re going to turn your once-cost crushing food into a profit center, partner with vendors and caterers who make things we really, really desire. No one wants day old sandwiches. Airlines need to get creative, get social and find partnerships with incredible products. Offer us ramen noodles on the cheap end, offer us sushi on the high end. Some people will be thrilled for a higher end. For example, I love that Norwegian Airlines offers Nicolas Feuillatte champagne for purchase on their flights.

Buy On Board Should Mean Low Fares Win, And It Could Expand To Long Haul…

Would you rather have a $350 round trip ticket with no meal, or a $425 ticket with a meal? The sheer fact that legacy, mainstream airlines have moved to buy on board is a signal that they will no longer fight low cost carriers to raise prices. They recognize that low prices are what we want, they’re here to stay and they’re adjusting their offerings accordingly. As someone who enjoys travel more than eating (marginally), I’ll find a way to snack before, during and after the flight on my own wares. I’m far more protective of my wallet than my in flight meals.